Why Over-Marinating Your Skirt Steak Could Ruin It

Flavorful as it is, skirt steak can do with a bit of seasoning, and there's no better agent for the job than a marinade. This flavor bath even serves a dual purpose: to infuse your meat with aromas and to ensure your skirt steak doesn't turn out chewy. Yet, too much of a good thing can be bad. When you leave your skirt steak swimming in juices for too long, you run the risk of ruining its flavor and texture.

Let's be clear — there's no one-size-fits-all for marinating meat. There are several conditions to consider, including the size of meat slices and the nature of the marinade. But whether you've sliced your skirt steak into ½-inch strips for some sizzling steak fajitas or cut it into larger 6-inch pieces for a quick recipe with miso marinade — it can become a mushy disaster if over-marinated. Once squishy, there's no recovering skirt steak's tender yet firm consistency that gives it an honorable chew.

Over-marinating can also ruin skirt steak by altering its flavor. Although the purpose of a marinade is to let flavors seep into the meat, at a certain point, the meat has absorbed as much as it can. A minimum of 30 minutes is enough to accomplish the task, and longer than overnight, the marinade may overwhelm the flavor of skirt steak. Instead of beefy flavors enhanced by zesty essence, acid painfully penetrates each bite.

What happens when you over-marinate skirt steak?

Marinades are typically acidic, and their effect is to denature meat. They often include ingredients with harsh overtones such as lemon or lime juice, vinegar, or pickle juice. The result of letting any of these saturate skirt steak is a softer meat that's more pleasant to chew — a welcome contrast to an otherwise chewy cut. But instead of seeping deeper into skirt steak the longer it stays, the marinade remains settled on top and further breaks down the fiber of the meat's exterior.

What you end up with is an over-tenderized exterior housing a potentially flavorless center. It won't help that all those harsh elements have only served to over-flavor the meat after so long either. This is very different from how marinating alters fish by making it tougher, as instead, the abundant connective tissue in skirt steak (and beef cuts) prevents the acid from penetrating the meat further.

Over-marinating can even pose a health risk. By storing skirt steak for a long time — beyond 3 days — you may invite an unhealthy amount of bacteria to take over the meat. Chances are high that you may get sick if you eat it after this stage. Why not avoid all the risks by letting the mix marinate your meat for a short yet effective 30 minutes to a couple of hours? Or better yet, skip the marinade on skirt steak and make a sauce after cooking it instead.